Creative Play is what children do when they’re just being children, and there are plenty of things you can do to encourage creative play in your home. Whether it’s drawing, painting, cutting, pasting, modelling, making or make believe, all children love being creative if they’re given the chance. And there’s so many important developmental benefits of creative play, why wouldn’t you want to encourage it?
What are the benefits of creative play?
While it’s tempting to leave all the ‘messy’ creative activities for your child to do at school or day care, there are so many skills they can learn by having the freedom to do them at home. And developing a love of the creative process will set your child up as a creative thinker in all walks of life.
In fact creative thinking and creative problem solving are fast becoming some of the key skills employers are looking for in the workforce. Schools know this and creative play is being incorporated into the curriculum for younger children. But don’t leave it until your kids get to school. Develop these skills at home now, and set your child up for the best possible start in life.
Some of the benefits and skills your child will gain through creative play include:
1. Intellectual Benefits
Even at a young age, creative activities help to develop basic maths skills such as geometry (size and shape), measuring, and sorting. There is also a great deal of problem solving and concentration which happens as children learn to take what is in their head, and put it onto paper. In the early years they need to ask themselves basic questions like will this glue be strong enough, if I cut here will it fit, or how can I stop the paint from dripping? In solving these problems they learn about the creative thinking process.
As children get older, different arts and crafts require more complex thinking skills, and many activities need an understanding of basic science concepts for them to make sense. Things like mixing specific colours or creating a mosaic pattern may seem like creative activities, but without an intellectual component the creativity falls apart. As your child learns these skills in a creative area, they can transfer them to other areas of their life as well.
2. Physical Benefits
Painting, drawing, cutting and pasting all help to develop fine motors skills in young children, which in turn helps them to be writing-ready as they near school age. Children are not born with a pencil in their hand, so it takes time to develop the skills required to make one work. Creative play helps to develop those skills.
With that in mind, it’s important to recognise that your child’s scribbles represent a huge milestone in their physical development. Remember in the space of a year or so, your child has gone from the stage of not even knowing they have hands, to being able to pick up a crayon, move it over the paper, and apply enough pressure for it to actually leave a mark. That’s incredible!
To put it in perspective, try drawing a picture with a crayon held between your toes. The strength and co-ordination required to make that happen, is less than that required of toddlers learning to draw. Just making a mark is a milestone.
As children get older, creative activities will help further develop their fine motor skills, as well as their hand-eye coordination.
3. Emotional and Social Benefits
It’s no secret that creative activities provide a positive outlet for children (and adults) to express their emotions, and this starts at a very young age. Making a range of equipment and materials accessible for your child, means that creative expression becomes as normal as brushing their teeth.
As children get older, arts and crafts can provide a safe and positive way for children to socialise with others. Instead of just ‘hanging out’, children can get together to make and create.
4. Communication Skills
Creative play is a great way to build your child’s communication skills in a fun and supportive environment. When children are engaged with their chosen material you’ll notice they talk to themselves about what’s happening. This in turn leads to building their vocabulary and developing their imagination.
If you’ve got a few minutes, check out the video below. Rebecca Ellison is an Art Educator, and she explains very simply, and quite beautifully, the benefits of art and creative play in this Youtube sketch animation:
What equipment does my child need for creative play?
Encouraging creativity in your child doesn’t need to be expensive, but it is important that they have some basic equipment available to use when the creative bug bites. Things like crayons, paints, coloured paper, scissors, and glue should be basics in your creative play box, but there are literally hundreds of other things you can include as well.
Good stationery stores, emporiums, and educational toy stores can all provide you with a variety of art supplies, and it’s amazing what children can create using everyday materials from around the house. Some good materials and equipment to introduce through the years are:
- Crayons – wax, plastic and oil
- Paints – water, acrylic, tempera
- Coloured Pencils and Felt Pens
- Brushes and Sponges
- Modelling Clays and play dough
- Printmaking Equipment
- Stamps and Punches
- Paper and cardboard
- Collage Materials
- Glues and Adhesives
- Craft Kits
- Moulds and Templates
- Easels and Activity Tables
- Aprons and Accessories
- large pieces of material for make believe
To find out about what equipment and materials are best for specific age groups, check out Equipment for Creative Play.
Above all else, give your child the space and time to be creative for creative sakes. Keep a box full of bits and pieces on hand, and try not to stress about the mess.
Creative activities are not just airy-fairy feel-good things, they help your child develop intellectually, physically and socially. And will help to set your child up for a live of creative thinking. So now…..let’s get busy!
Examples of creative play
Our ‘creative arts and crafts‘ section has some great examples of creative play. Many of these ideas are semi-structured play, where you set up the environment for learning, and then let your child explore at their own pace.
- Art activities for 3, 4 and 5 year olds
- Cardmaking activities
- Craft activities for boys
- Paper mache crafts
- Invitation to play tables
We love to hear your ideas so make sure you leave a comment if you have another brilliant example!